Night had swept the day clean and stars were the only residue left behind to pepper brightly the swath of darkened sky that hung over Lexington. The ember-like burn of the sunset had long since been anchored down behind the mountains. Near the outskirts of the city, the hills hummed with the sound of nocturnal insects and the yammering of twilight scavengers. Kevin Holt sat on the porch of his home with a grimace pulled tight over his face.
He knew they would be coming. So he waited. As he did every year
on that night – stooped in his rocking chair – his shotgun
stuffed with shells.
He spat a mixture of tobacco and saliva into the gravel and rolled
his tongue over the grain of his teeth.
“They'll be coming any minute now.” said Holt, speaking to a
shadow that lingered behind the screen door of the house. “Now that
the sun has gone down, they'll come out.”
“Why don't you just give it up, Kevin?” The shadow replied, it
was his wife Meryl. “How long you gonna fight this battle?”
“Every year Meryl. Every year they come stalking up my drive
with their evil intentions, hellbent on forcing their devilish ways
on good hard-working Christians.”
“It ain't as bad as all that.” Meryl sighed. “Come on inside
now, why don't you just let it go for once? Who's hurting?”
Kevin stood, his chair belligerently scraping the porch. “Those
of us that fear the lord!” He jabbed his arthritic digit into the
air. “Those of us with a strong moral core! Those of us who have
enough sense to know not to let the Devil in on his unholiest of
nights! Those of us...” He trailed off and his shoulders slumped.
He spat again into the night. Meryl had gone back into the house and
left him alone to his ranting. He walked over to the door and peered
inside. She had gone back into the kitchen.
The old man looked over his shoulder, and after making sure he
wouldn't be seen, knelt to retrieve something from beneath the step
of the porch. He chuckled as he found what he had prepared and left
there the night before.
“This year'll be the last. I'll fix it to where they'll never
“SpearPOINT Marduk Report:”
Spoken into OverDruid Nimrod's
Syntax-Bridge, the phrase – originating from the Alpha-Orionus Span
just beyond Betelgeuse – still carried its demanding tone even from
The creature turned its head to the
sky. The large, glassy black orbs that protruded from its pale,
otherwise featureless face glimmered in the moonlight which sparsely
penetrated the surrounding trees.
The Marduk, its body not completely
compliant with the atmosphere, produced a long, unwholesome and
dissonant tone. The vibrations of the call caused the surrounding
crickets to halt their efforts – and the Marduk was left in a
chilly silence – save for the wind and the creaking bark of the
The Syntax it had brought was
malfunctioning – so in return it could not converse in the native
language of the planet it had come to.
The OverDruid spoke again through the
transmitter. “SpearPOINT Understood: Syntax-Bridge malfunction.
Contact translation protocol unABLE. Proceed and make contact As Is
A chortling cackle in retort came from
the Marduk – an eerie vocal clucking that resembled a backwards
mask of human laughter.
The Marduk's slender legs and limbs
picked carefully through the woods – a ghostly vibrant contrast to
the vacuumous night.
Thomas pulled on his pumpkin mask, the
final ornament of his costume. The smell of the latex and the
condensation of his breath on the inside of the mask an always
pungent reminder that the time was near. He smiled under his new
He had already put on his skeleton body
suit, becoming an amalgam of the holiday – nothing in particular
yet everything that it represented all at once. A mishmash that made
him happy. He could hear his brother's rowdy friends downstairs
getting ready to go out into the evening and cause trouble. After
coming home from school he had seen the rolls of toilet paper and the
spray cans hidden in his brother's room. Todd, his sibling, hadn't
noticed him snooping so Thomas had been able to avoid persecution.
“We're going out mom!” he heard
“Don't forget your brother!”
demanded the parent.
There was a roar of discontent from
Todd and his hoods.
Thomas lowered his jack-o-lantern grin.
He didn't like going out with Todd either, but it was the only way
his mom would let him trick or treat. His heart was brave for
Halloween – and his want to fulfill the night's purpose was
stronger than his dislike for his brother. He grabbed up his plastic
candy bucket, a jack-o-lantern as well, and rushed downstairs.
“Look Mouth,” Mouth was Todd's
nickname for Thomas. They all walked down the street together. Todd
and his friends weren't even dressed up. They looked ugly enough,
Thomas observed, peeking out through his pumpkin eyes. “just try to
keep up okay? And don't whine and cry when we get to that geezer
Thomas stopped and tilted his head. He
hated going to Kevin Holt's farmhouse. It always meant trouble. Kevin
was Todd's favorite person to pick on. It didn't make sense to
Thomas, as it was that Mr. Holt was extraordinarily ill-tempered and
completely terrifying to the ten-year-old.
Thomas stopped and fiddled with the
stump atop his mask – struggling perhaps with a rite of passage
that the preteen boy could never comprehend.
“I said keep up Mouth!”
Thomas pointed at a group of children
on a nearby doorstep. A parent opened the door dumping copious
amounts of sweets into their outstretched hands.
Todd grunted. “Alright kid... Guys
hold up!” There were more groans from the boys. “Let my little
brother get some candy or my mom will ride me into the wall.”
The Marduk leaned out from behind the
corner of a house, just so that its head dangled around the edge at
an unnatural height, to observe the lit street beyond. A series of
clicks and pops vibrated out from its throat muscles – a shapeless
“UnderSTOOD:” Began The Nimrod. “As
is Customary – Inhabitants augment their appearance for practical
or ritual purpose. UNDERstood: Also gift-giving-receiving Social and
Thomas was happy enough. His plastic
pumpkin was filled with candy. Halloween had been set free in his
mind and he merrily tromped along behind his brother, until he
remembered their mission's end. His Autumnal victory was cut short as
they reached the long driveway which led through the cow fields and
to Mr. Holt's farm. As the boys began their trek Thomas stayed
“Come on Mouth!” Whispered Todd
Thomas shook his head – the toothy
grin of his mask wobbling.
“Just leave him!” One of the other
Todd shot his brother a worried look.
“Just stay here, okay? We'll be right back.”
Thomas sighed as he watched the
teenagers walk off into the fields – where there were no more
After awhile of waiting Thomas began to
grow uneasy. He thought about walking home but was afraid to go
alone. He was also afraid of being alone right were he was. To put
his mind at ease he sat down with his plastic pumpkin and began to
dig through his candy. He had gotten some good pieces. Full ones too,
not the fun-sized cheap bits from the dollar store.
As he was wrist-deep in sugar, Thomas
stopped rummaging and held very still. A sound had pricked his
attention – or rather – a lack of sound – as he realized the
static hum of the chirping crickets had abruptly ceased.
He stood up and dusted off his costume.
The boy turned and his mask began to shake, the only betrayal of his
abject terror as he saw the impossibly tall and slender figure
looming over him. Thomas gripped the handle of his treat bucket
strictly– trying to instill in him some sense of will as sanity
began to quickly peel back from his brain.
“REPORT: Establish Contact – As is
The thing stooped downward and held out
a gesturing finger to the boy. Thomas was quickly losing his footing
in reality – sweat was pouring out from under his mask. The
creature looked back and forth between Thomas's mask and the plastic
pumpkin he held in his hand. Several times it did this until it
reached out and slowly pulled up on the mask, revealing Thomas's
face, eyes wide and mouth agape with fear.
A bubbling noise came from the creature
as it slid the mask over its own head.
“MARDUK – Understood.”
It had been enough for Thomas – he
forgot about his brother and his candy. Dropping his bucket he ran as
fast as he could in the direction of his neighborhood.
Kevin Holt could hardly contain
himself. He squatted down in his hiding spot, watching one of the
Devil's own walk up to his porch. The lanky teenager, in some sort of
bodysuit, had already begged himself a whole bucket of candy and was
wearing a pumpkin mask to hide his face.
“Can't hide your face from the eyes
of the Lord!” he screamed out. He struck a match and ignited the
cache of home made fireworks he had stowed nearby.
The sound was immense – a crackling
cascade of popping shots and sparks. The visitor howled in dismay as
it was disheveled by the noise. It turned immediately in the
direction of Holt but then bounded in the opposite direction with
long strides, disappearing into trees.
“That's right you Satanic son of a
bitch! You won't ever come back this way again! Don't you tread on
The old man laughed until he fell flat
on his back.
Todd and his friends all cringed
simultaneously when they heard the explosions.
“Holt has a gun! He's shooting at us!
“UNDerstood – ATTEMPted CONtact met
with LOCAL HOSTILITY – As is Customary – Retaliate with Show of
Holt wiped his eyes and sniffed. He got
up and turned to go inside but something caught his eye, just along
the edge of the trees. The trick-or-treater was standing in the
foliage staring directly at him.
“Get on out of here! Can't you take a
hint! Get before I call the police!”
It was something about the way the
costumed stranger stepped out from the trees that caused Kevin's
resolve to pause. Delicately, with a calculated mixture of agile
certainty and tactical menace. The old farmer tried to move but found
his knees locked in fear. Fear of what he asked himself? Just a
greasy little punk with a stupid dime store mask? Then, as the
pumpkin-faced thing slowly began walking up the porch steps, and he
saw its glistening, unnatural skin in the moonlight, he knew. It was
fear of the Devil. The last thing he saw was the inordinately long,
gray fingers of the thing before they pressed his teary eyes into the
back of his head.
“MARDUK responding. Local hostilities
disMissed. Attempted to make contact, As is Customary – to no
diplomatic end. NEUTRALization is suggested.”
“Received: PLANET species inDIcative
of TRIBAL-lvl governing and mentality --- QUE for TERmination.
PREPARE total invasion scenario NI.BI.RU. And await further
“Agreed. Received. MARDUK proceeding
with SHOW OF FORCE.” The Marduk removed its fingers from Kevin Holt
and hoisted his body up off the floor, carrying it into the woods.
In the morning Meryl Holt opened the
door to the farmhouse and put a hand to her brow. She looked out over
the hills and called for her husband, who had never come in after his
ridiculous fireworks show the night before. She had heard the racket
from the bedroom upstairs and refused to have any part in it, but
since then become concerned by his absence.
She squinted against the light of the
rising sun – completely unaware of the mess at her feet.
She took a step forward into what was
left of a ragged Halloween mask, a pumpkin. She grunted to herself
and bent over to pick it up, but paused just before reaching it,
noticing the thick red fluid seeping out from beneath.
Meryl Holt screamed as her
husband's head rolled down the porch steps – she had thought the
mask was empty – after all – there were no eyes to see through
the holes of the jack-o-lantern.